I don’t write this in anger, nor out of childish told-ya-so emotion.
(To be sure, I am as capable of childish told-ya-so emotions as your nearest 9-year old. It helps to be 9 years old, emotionally.)
Plus, I do believe I was on the record saying the Warriors would be wise to play it smart and safe and draft big man James Wiseman.
But now I confess to a slight case of Wiseman Regret. And a slight case of LaMelo Envy.
By the way, congratulations to LaMelo Ball for winning NBA Rookie of the Year. It’s the impetus for this Jock Blog.
I can pinpoint the time my mind began to reconsider the Warriors’ drafting of Wiseman.
It happened right about the time I saw LaMelo Ball play basketball as a Charlotte Hornet.
There was a faction — albeit small — who had said prior to the NBA Draft of 2020 that LaMelo Ball was destined to be a superstar, with his preternatural gift of court vision, imagination and instinct. This is stuff analytics could not define.
That faction is looking pretty good right now.
I was intrigued by some of the chatter, and thought about Ball. Also, as a proud UCLA Bruin, I had some affinity for the family. I didn’t worry about the Dad. He’s just hot air. But Lonzo, in his one year in Westwood, was an outstanding player and the *only* thing watchable about the Steve Alford Era. We won’t talk about the middle brother, as I was just saying to my local sunglass shop owner here in town.
Still, it was sensible to take Wiseman. In an era where Giannis Antetokounmpo runs the floor like a point guard at 6-foot-11, you could see the potential for Wiseman as the next generation mold: run like a gazelle, protect the rim like Dikembe, branch out for the occasional 3 like Kevin Love, and generally blend all these talents into a force to define a new era.
No pressure, though, kid.
Then LaMelo took his talents to North Carolina, and changed the view.
He led all rookies in assists and steals — and missed 21 games with a fractured wrist. He became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple double. He shot 35.2 percent from 3-point land. By comparison, the Warriors’ Jordan Poole shot 35.1 percent.
And poor Wiseman had a turbulent rookie year, despite his obvious talent. Between COVID fits-and-starts, and an unfortunate meniscus injury, he wound up only playing 39 games. There were times he looked like a beautiful investment. He averaged 11.5 points, grabbed 5.8 rebounds, made 31% from the 3-point-line.
But you hated to hear the whispers from the NBA whisper-sphere that Wiseman’s strength — the pick-and-roll — runs counter to the Warriors’ strength with Steph Curry, which is ball movement and pass-heavy sets to find the best possible shot. And then you imagined what it would be like to have LaMelo running the Warriors’ second unit, or even finding a way to run the point when Steph and Klay are on the floor, and you start to drool.
You even started to hear some people close to the game saying the Warriors’ best move would be to trade Wiseman this offseason. Ouch.
Zaza Pachulia sat in with us on Wednesday (which was really fun) and said the ‘p’ word, so infrequently used in today’s society — PATIENCE! — is Wiseman and the fans’ greatest ally. He just turned 20. He’s an infant. DeAndre Ayton, another 7-footer who is only 22 and in his third year, has seen his advanced metrics improve in his third year, and the Suns are in the Western Conference Finals.
So yes, of course, this could all work out brilliantly. Wiseman could turn into the love child of Giannis and Bill Russell and rule Chase Center for years to come.
But right now, LaMelo is looking really, really, really good as an alternative.
Spilled milk, I know. But what’s a Jock Blog for?